Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome the thousands of you from governments around the world, NGOs, public and private organizations, and elsewhere, who are taking part in the third biennial International Family Planning Conference. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t be with you in person in Addis Ababa, but I want to tell you that, as both the U.S. Secretary of State and the father of two extraordinary young women, I am exceedingly grateful for your hard work and dedication to this cause. Millions of women, men, and children have better lives today thanks to the work that many of you have done for decades.
In 1994, when I was a U.S. Senator, I attended the historic International Conference on Population and Development. What was clear back then is still clear today: that challenges like reproductive health care and family planning are bigger than the political boxes that some try to force them into. These are basic human necessities that hundreds of millions of women are forced to go without. For some, it’s because they can’t afford or don’t have access to these services. For others, it’s because their husbands or their communities simply don’t support their use.
That’s why the United States and our partners must continue our life-saving work to advocate for sexual health and reproductive rights. That includes universal access to voluntary family planning. At that population and development conference nearly two decades ago, we set a goal of ensuring universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. We’ve made enormous, really significant progress in the time since, but if we’re going to meet that objective – the same objective outlined in the Millennium Development Goals – we’ll all need to redouble our commitment to women and girls.
We’ll need to continue investing in effective programs like the United Nations Population Fund and the State Department’s Global Health Initiative.
And we’ll need to find new ways to remind people that when women and girls are better able to stay healthy and pursue new opportunities, they are also better able to contribute to the success of their families, their communities, their countries and the world. The fact is, when women and girls thrive, so do the people around them.
On behalf of the entire U.S. State Department, I look forward to hearing what comes out of this important conference, and I look forward to working together to bring about a healthier and more prosperous future for families from Addis to Adelaide, and everywhere in between.
Thank you for the work you’re doing, and I hope you have a great meeting.